Attorneys: High Punitive Award Rare in Missouri Product Cases, Jury Intended to Send a Message to the Industry.
ST. CHARLES, MO – SEPTEMBER 13, 2023 – The final judgment was entered in the trial over a Missouri man whose e-cigarette exploded in his mouth, leaving him with grievous and life-altering injuries. The jury ordered the e-cigarette distributor Lightfire Holdings, LLC, d/b/a Kanger Wholesale USA, to pay the victim Bryan Durham $352,083 in compensatory damages and $2 million in punitive damages.
Durham’s legal team at the national law firm Peiffer Wolf Carr Kane Conway & Wise (Peiffer Wolf) indicated that it’s rare to see a punitive award in a product case in Missouri, and that the jury clearly intended to send a message to the e-cigarette industry.
Kevin P. Conway, managing partner at Peiffer Wolf, said: “The jury punched Lightfire Holdings and the entire e-cigarette industry in the mouth with this verdict, and corporations bleed green.”
Sara Craig, attorney at Peiffer Wolf, said: “The e-cigarette industry values profits over safety. Because they are cheaper, many lithium batteries used in e-cigarettes were never intended for use outside of a protected battery pack. That’s a recipe for disaster. When e-cigarettes malfunction and explode, it’s like an oral pipe bomb.”
The order and judgment were entered in the Eleventh Circuit Court, State of Missouri, in Saint Charles County.
In the late evening of July 22, 2017, Durham was vaping the e-cigarette in his home in Dardenne Prairie, Saint Charles County, Missouri when it exploded in his mouth. The blast left Durham with several broken and missing teeth; a fractured jaw ridge; oral bleeding; swelling of the tongue and floor of the mouth; nerve damage in his mouth; burns to his hand, leg and face; glass and metal lodged in his gums; and shrapnel embedded in his left arm, which caused a laceration, bleeding, permanent nerve damage and numbness in his left hand, finger and thumb.
Immediately after the explosion and after regaining his bearings, Durham wrapped his arm in a towel and drove himself to the Emergency Room at Progressive West Hospital in O’Fallon, Missouri. After arrival, he lost consciousness. Due to breathing concerns caused by the swelling and bleeding in his mouth, Durham was transported to Barnes-Jewish Hospital in Saint Louis Missouri, a level-one trauma center, where he was treated and stabilized. Durham required oral and hand surgery and stitches to heal the laceration in his arm. Over six years after the incident, he is still dealing with the permanent after-effects of his injuries.
Bryan Durham, the Missouri man who suffered life-changing injuries when his e-cigarette exploded in his mouth, said: “I’ve been living with the consequences of my injuries since 2017, and every time I look in the mirror it’s a reminder of what I’ve been through. I hope the e-cigarette industry feels the message sent by the jury. They can’t get away with selling dangerous, exploding products. I am truly grateful to be alive and hope that by sharing my story I can prevent others from being hurt or even killed.”
E-cigarettes are more dangerous than other products that contain lithium batteries because the e-cigarette is most often designed as a cylindrical device, requiring a lithium-ion battery of a similar shape. When the device malfunctions or fails, the battery can be shot out like a bullet or rocket.
China and other foreign countries are major producers of e-cigarettes and their component parts. It was estimated that more than 300 million e-cigarettes were shipped from China to the United States and Europe in 2015. Many of these products are shipped from China and placed directly into the stream of commerce in the United States without any knowledge as to the composition, design, or safety of the products.
Max Karlin at (703) 276-3255 or [email protected].
Peiffer Wolf Carr Kane Conway & Wise is a national law firm with offices in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, New Orleans, St. Louis, Cleveland, and Youngstown. Visit www.PeifferWolf.com for more information.